The project is assessed on the basis of a written final dissertation. Dissertations will typically conform to the following format:
This format is given for guidance only. The structure of an MSc dissertation should be chosen to suit the project.In addition, the dissertation must be accompanied by a statement declaring that the student has read and understood the University's plagarism guidelines. Examiners may use the Turnitin plagarism detection software.
The dissertation presents work of extended scholarship, often the result of original work or in-depth research of a topic. The work should demonstrate, amongst other things, advanced level of knowledge and understanding of the field of study, and an ability to undertake research. The dissertation must be satisfactory in its presentation and reference to other sources. Since the time and resources available to the candidate are relatively restricted it is not expected that the dissertation will report notable or original contributions to knowledge. The masters dissertation and associated works of scholarship are primarily teaching, learning and examining media, not media for the presentation of research of original work outcomes to public or peers.
Projects should be assessed in terms of a number of basic and other criteria. These are:
Note that according to the University's marking regulations (see the document Taught Assessment Regulations (PDF), and in particular page 32), a dissertation may be judged satisfactory, as presented and without alteration, despite containing small deficiencies and editorial imperfections.
Markers may not recommend that marginal fails be resubmitted with minor ammendments. Resubmissions are not permitted unless this has been approved by CSPC on the basis of a case submitted by the College of Science and Engineering. If the Board of Examiners wishes a student to resubmit, a case on the basis of special circumstances needs to be submitted to CSPC as a College-requested concession.
Accordingly, markers should assign projects their marks according to the following criteria:
Note that the 'completion' criterion, B, covers achievement of the original objectives, achievement of modified objectives or providing convincing evidence that the objectives are unachievable. The 'outstanding merit' criterion, K, includes originality and the excellence of engineering.
Many dissertations will not fit neatly into any category, e.g. strong on additional criteria, but weak on a basic one. In this case, examiners are asked to trade one criterion off against another as best they can, bearing in mind that failure on a basic criterion is a serious fault.
The degree may be awarded with merit or with distinction. For distinction, a candidate must have been awarded at least 70% for the dissertation and other work from the taught element of the course must have also be assessed and awarded a mark which is close to, or above the 70% standard. For merit, at least 60% is required on both criteria.
Markers should be particularly careful about assigning grades at these two borderlines. In particular, if the marks assigned by the first and second marker are on different sides of a borderline, then a special justification is required for the agreed mark, explaining why the agreed mark is either below or above the borderline. This justification should be entered in the agreed mark form as free text.
The dissertation may be judged to be marginally unsatisfactory if the examiner feels that an unambiguous pass cannot be justified. In this case the mark awarded for the work should be in the range 48-49%. The Board of Examiners will make the final decision, possibly based on any special circumstances. There is no longer a mechanism for a candidate to revise the dissertation. If the dissertation, as submitted, clearly does not demonstrate the required standard, an unambiguous fail mark (47% or below) should be awarded.
When examiners are aware of any mitigating factors which should be taken into account, these should not be compensated for in the assessment but should be mentioned in the appropriate section of the report with an indication of the degree of compensation felt to be appropriate. Similarly if an examiners feels that the dissertation does not do justice to the work carried out by the candidate, this should be made clear in the report together with an explanation. In all cases reasons for the overall grading must be given.
In the General Comments section, examiners should include a little contextual information as to what the thesis is about, in no more than one sentence or two. Supervisors should also note the extent to which the candidate was self-directed or required close supervision. Original contributions by the candidate or novelty in the project should also be highlighted. If the project involved extending existing code, the examiner should try to estimate how much work was put into researching the pre-existing background.
It is very important that the comments that are written on the mark sheet are sufficiently informative to justify the mark awarded the dissertation.
In all cases, it is the Board of Examiners that make the final decision, based on the mark sheets and agreed marks. Except under exceptinoal circumstances, individual mark sheets should be completed without consultation amongst examiners. If it is necessary to consult, this should be indicated appropriately on the submitted form.
Examiners are invited to nominate a dissertation for a prize if they think this is appropriate. Making such a nomination on the project marking form will allow External Examiners to adjudicate between competing projects.
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